Thursday, December 27, 2007

Keeping Warm at Christmas Time

We live in Wisconsin and it's definitely winter here right now. We have more snow than I have seen in years. It reminds me of the winters we had when I was a kid. Lydia spent the afternoon today digging tunnels and sledding down the snow piles in the front yard. While doing so, MY fingertips went numb from the COLD while working on my laptop IN THE LIVING ROOM. When my brain finally registered that my fingers were numb and I was shivering I checked the thermostat and discovered the furnace had stopped working. The fireplaces are keeping us toasty until the furnace fixer guy can get here (tomorrow morning hopefully).

Lydia opened the package with the American Girl brush, then the packages with the American Girl outfits, and still was surprised as could be when she opened the box with the American Girl DOLL in it. She named her Erin (my brother's girlfriend, Erin, was with us and may have something to do with that). I think the doll will be well loved.

Erin read my blog post about the sewing machine and so Lydia got the Alex Sew Fun sewing machine for Christmas. Lydia and I already made a purse with it for her doll and we will make many more projects with it. It's so cool! And so is the purse they got me which is one of my favorites on Etsy! Thanks Uncle Matt and Erin.

The scarf I started on September 23rd did not get finished in time for Christmas but I am making progress. I am thinking of snazzing it up with some beads and ribbons. We will see what I can come up with. My new goal is to finish it in time for Lydia to actually be able to use it before the winter is over.
I spent last Saturday at the quilt shop and caught up on my quilt. I learned how to "stitch in the ditch". I am hoping my next post of the quilt will be the finished product! There is just one more class on January 8. I have decided to sign up for the intermediate quilting class which will be with the same group of ladies and I'm also considering a class that meets monthly which will be for smaller projects like bags and table runners. I am going to give quilting a bit more time before I decide if I like it or not. I love the finished projects I see and would really like quilting to grow on me.

For those of you who haven't already, I recommend you Elf Yourself for a good laugh. You have until January 2. This was the extent of our Christmas card this year but it could also be used for best wishes in the new year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Quilting May Not be My Thing

I have found quilting to be more stressful than enjoyable. The measuring and cutting kind of drives me nuts. It seems you have to be so precise. Then I am always worried about sewing my seams too big because I have had to rip apart and re-stitch more than a few squares. I was nearly in tears at least once because of that. I started this quilt back on October 18 but it seems so long ago. I have two more classes left which will involve putting two borders on this puppy and then I am done. I am not sure if I will ever make another quilt. We'll see. Maybe two is a charm. I will never look at another quilt like I did before actually making one. I now understand all of the work that goes into one of these things.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Big Cheese Week

Lydia was the "Big Cheese" at school this week. We visited her class on Tuesday, read a book and had lunch. The teacher decorated the bulletin board with pictures Lydia brought from home. She was line leader. It was a really big deal! We made these snowman pupcakes (what Lydia calls them) last night for her last day of Big Cheese Week. I got the idea from this recipe at The noses were carved from gummy bears (recipe calls for gummy fish...couldn't find 'em). I didn't have the recommended decorations for the eyes so I used what I coloring and toothpicks. These pupcakes are a bit tedious but they sure are cute. Lydia was very proud to share them at school today.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Holiday Baking

I had a lot of fun with my cousin and sister today while doing some holiday baking. We made at least 12 recipes it seems like. I am not sure. I lost count. The first image is a picture of the owl cookies we made. The picture isn't that great but I think they turned out pretty cute. This particular guy seems to be missing an ear.

It's going to be a busy week. I am nearly done with the scarf I am knitting Lydia and want to finish it for Christmas. I have lots of quilting to get done before my next class on the 18th. I am at the point where I need to decide how I want to place all of the blocks and then sew them together. I am considering going with Lydia to a beading class this Thursday. Then, I was watching Martha Stewart earlier this week and they made this cute pop-up Christmas card that I want to try to make.

I was seriously considering these Singer sewing and knitting machines for Lydia for Christmas this year. She is 6 and may be old enough but I don't know if she has the patience or perhaps attention span yet. I tried to teach her how to stitch on plastic canvas this weekend and she didn't seem to be able to focus long enough on it to pick it up. I think she was interested but just wanted to know how to do it without focusing, if that makes any sense.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Get the Bikes - Check

I have been missing in action due to a back injury, migraines, and being dog tired from having my thyroid all out of whack.  Just wanted to let you know I am still here.  We picked up our mountain bikes this weekend and although it was 19 degrees outside today we took them for a good ride and they are so nice.  The picture is of my husband as he is leaving for work for the evening.  He's done with work in a few minutes (10 PM Central) and I am going to wait up for him to make sure he makes it home before turning into an icicle.

P.S. - I have quilt class tomorrow and I don't have my homework done!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

November 2007 Card Swap and More Christmas Presents

I finised the cards for the November swap last night. Here is the sketch we were told to use as a guide.

I am a Stampin' Up! hobbyist demo. No, I don't "deal" stamps. I have to laugh when people ask me how long I have been a "dealer". It sounds like I am pushing drugs. I received this set of stamps in the mail yesterday, free of charge, as a holiday gift. I am looking forward to stamping with them and coloring the images with some bright colors.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Kids Say the Funniest Things!

Lydia says the funniest things sometimes. Six is so much fun. When it's really dark outside she says it is "pinch black outside". Also, I have stacks of CD's on my desk right now because I am importing them into my iTunes library. She asked me if I am going to "melt them" (instead of burn them).

Quilting Homework Done - Check

We finished Lydia's math homework and then worked on my quilting homework which is due tomorrow. Both were fun. I finished three log cabin squares. They are crooked as heck but will trim down to 6.5 inches and that is what I care about at this point. At least they aren't too small and I don't have to rip them all apart. Yay! Lydia and I are off to the craft room now to work on the cards for the card swap that are also due tomorrow!

Santa Came Early

Ken really wanted to get me an iPhone this year for Christmas (he has been talking about it for months) so we checked into the service in our area and learned that our area has really poor coverage. No shocker there. We couldn't even sign up for an AT&T plan with our home address. :-( We decided to hold off for now until the coverage gets better. Instead, Ken bought me an iPod touch for Christmas which has the same features minus the phone part. Ken named him Superfly Shnooka and I love him. My iPod nano (aka Lil Wedge, also named by Ken) has served me well but Ken is now it's new owner. He will probably assume ownership of Superfly Shnooka in a year or two as well, as soon as I can get good coverage with the iPhone.

By the way, I let Ken name electronic devices, not our children. I can't share some of the names he wanted to name our first born for the sake of offending men in Greece so let me just say his names are over the top for a child in central WI.

We are going to Cross Country Sports in Houghton, MI, the weekend of December 1 to pick up Ken's Kona Dawg Deluxe! He has been eying that thing up for months. He has yet to test ride it but I have a feeling we'll be bringing it home. I'd also like to test ride a Trek Fuel EX 5.5 WSD while we are there. I'm thinking of taking up biking so we can do that sport together. Ken went running with me yesterday and he enjoyed it. If I take up biking, maybe he will take up running. That is the hope anyway. :-)

Tomorrow is a big day for me. I have quilt class which means my homework needs to be done (it's not). The cards for my card swap are due as well (also not done)!!!! I will be busy tonight!!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Book No. 4

These books are so much fun to make. I have one more from the kit left to do and then I will design one of my own.

My favorite Holiday Peppermint coffee that only comes out at Christmas time is in the grocery stores now (Candy Cane is my favorite). I'm having a cup right now and it makes me feel Christmasy. Speaking of Christmas, we are going to do some Christmas shopping today. This is an early start for us but I would prefer we start even earlier. As Dave Ramsey says, Christmas is the same time every year! Meaning it's pretty easy to plan for it throughout the year but I always think I have time to get to it later and then I am rushing or worried I won't find the right gifts. My family asked for a wish list this year so I have started one at Etsy (my Etsy Wish List). If you have been asked for a wish list, you might consider the same.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Book No. 3

This one took me only about an hour. It's much smaller. Like 3.5x5 inches or something like that. So much fun to make!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Book No. 2

The book binding skills have improved with book number two. I made one of the four books in the Club Scrap kit I bought at the scrapbooking retreat this past weekend. I stayed up past my bed time yesterday to finish it. It only took me about 2 hours to make. I want to write on the deeply textured pages with a juicy black ink pen. The paper looks like it would almost be squooshy to write on. But then again, it's too pretty to write on. I haven't decided if it'll be a gift yet. Most likely it will be. I usually don't keep things I make.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Back from the Scrapbooking Retreat

I went on a scrapbooking retreat this past weekend with my friends Dawn and Sarah. This year at the retreat they had a special guest, Tricia Morris from Club Scrap. She is a fantastic teacher, I cannot even tell you! She supplied us with so many cool products and taught us how to bind books! The picture above is a hand bound book I made! I bought a kit to make 4 more...
Club Scrap has a monthly club and the kit each month comes in a Pizza Box (a.k.a. PB). What a neat idea.

We also made a technique book. This is a picture of a duo print that we made:Tricia is very inspiring and I would recommend any retreat she is teaching at. It was much more than a scrapbooking weekend which was very exciting for me because while I do want to do some scrapbooking, I am am even more interested in doing altered art projects and things like book binding.

I got a chance to visit a little with Tricia and learned that she and her husband are runners so we were able to chat about 1/2 and full marathons. She is such a neat lady. I am very inspired by her.

On top of all that, I scrapped 2 7x7 albums and got to spend time with two great girls. It was a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Keeping Busy

I had quilt class last night. I finished all of my home work for it! That included ripping apart the four squares I did in the first class and finishing five additional squares. Last night in class I made a nine-patch variation block and I started 3 log cabin blocks. The next class isn't until 11/20 so I have plenty of time to finish up one more 9-patch variation and the 3 log cabins. I have been using my Brother $150 special from many years ago to do my home work and I use a Bernina 240 in the quilting class. Now that I've sewn on a Bernina, I can tell how clunky my Brother machine is. If I keep with this quilting thing and sewing more often, I will get more serious about looking for a Bernina to bring home.

So all was well in my world....until I woke up this morning with a migraine. I thought I had the flu but I'm feeling better already so I think I just got really sick from the headache. I am so relieved to be over the worst of it.

This is the sketch we are using for the card swap I am in this month:
I played around with this and came up with these 2 variations so far...

I have made some progress on the purple scarf I am knitting for Lydia, my first knitting project. I am hoping to finish it before the snow gets here. Also, I think I have all of the prints and supplies ordered that I'll need for the scrapbooking retreat on November 9. I am known to procrastinate when preparing for something like this but I think I will be in pretty good shape as far as being ready for this one.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My Crafting Studio

My crafting studio is in our basement and it takes up 1/2 of the basement. My dream is to have the room finished some day with real walls, carpeting, and 2 larger windows to give me more natural light. For now, it does the trick, there is plenty of room to work, just want to make it prettier now.

Christmas Gift Idea for Your Knitting Friend

I receive the Knot Just for Knitters newsletter from and via the newsletter I found this project idea for a yarn wrapped ornament. I think this would make a nice Christmas gift for a knitting friend. I may give it a try.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Getting Ready for the Scrapbooking Retreat

I am going on a scrapbooking retreat the weekend of November 9 with a bunch of super great girls. It will be nice to hang out with them and I haven't done much scrapbooking lately so I am looking forward to this time to focus in on a few projects I have in mind. I plan on finishing up a 7x7 album I started for my 6 year old daughter this past September. I call it her "hugs" album because I chose only photos from this past summer where either my husband or I or both of us are hugging her. What prompted me to do this was a certain picture of the three of us that I have sitting on her night table--she needs to take it with her when she sleeps over at auntie's house and often I find it under her pillow. She mentioned one day that we don't look like the picture anymore (it's about 4 years old now). She is so right. She'll be able to take her hugs album with her the next time she stays at auntie's house. And I know it will be well loved because she loves to look through the bigger 12x12 albums I have made for her.

I also plan on starting an album for my running (the 5 milers, 10K's, 1/2 marathons, and marathons) and another for the annual trip I make to Door County with the Jensen ladies.

So anywho, I started a couple days ago to get organized for this upcoming event. I created piles of photos and momentos for each of the projects. I also ordered some supplies that I will need. I still have prints to order and a bit more project planning to do and then there are all those supplies that I will need to pack up. ARGH. The not so fun part will be getting all of the stuff to the retreat but once I am set up, it will be WONDERFUL! I just received a nice rolling bag/cart thingy as an award from work. I think it will hold all of my stamps quite nicely.

I want to get a 5 miler in tomorrow morning and then I am going to a TAC stamping party--my first one. Will get to meet a few of the gals from the group I've been doing the card swaps with for the last few months. I love swaps and the idea of challenges for motivation. I just emailed Rhonna Farrer to let her know that I want to join her round 12 of {the 21 challenge}. I have been reading Visual Chronicles: The No-Fear Guide to Creating Art Journals, Creative Manifestos, & Altered Books by Linda Woods and Karen Dinino which I picked up at a gigantic Powell's book store when I was in Portland for the marathon (awesome book store!!!) and I think this challenge would coincide well with what I've been gleaning from this book. I need to decide on what habit I want to make or break for the challenge. I will let you know what I decide on.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Spooky! Not. Just Darn Cute!

Lydia, my "scary" bat, had a great time at her school's Halloween Dance this past Friday.

Being Still

I am taking in all of the fall colors as much as possible. I realized recently that it was my dad who showed me how to really observe this beauty that is all around me. When I was a child I would deer hunt with him and doing so I would spend the majority of those days sitting quietly in nature by myself. I never went hunting because I enjoyed killing animals. I went hunting because there were the "remember when" stories dad and I could recall together later on and then laugh until we cried. I also enjoyed being still in nature, to hear the first chirp of the birds that woke up before my eyes noticed that darkness had begun to lift, to watch the activity of the animals build throughout the afternoon until a calm slowly overtook the woods as the sun began to set. I think my dad really enjoyed that part of hunting too. I am grateful to my dad for showing me how much fun it can be to be still in nature, and just how beautiful it all is.

Remembering Holly A. Charette

Tomorrow I'll be mailing Anne Landre the stitched name of the fallen soldier she sent me. I chose a bright golden yellow because it feels energetic and joyful to me and that is the type of person Holly seems to have been. Stitching Holly's name lead me naturally to concentrating only on her for the full hour it took me. I thought of her smile and wondered if I will get a chance to meet her in Heaven. I would really like that.

I am thankful I was able to participate in the Mother's Day Project because I had the opportunity to learn about Holly and I'm not tuning out the war in Iraq any longer.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mother's Day Project

I heard about the Mother's Day Project when the founder of the project, Anne Landre, was interviewed on a CraftSanity podcast. I recommend you visit the Mother's Day Project blog to learn more about the project but to give you a brief summary, Anne is trying to draw attention to the human cost of the Iraqi war by taking volunteers to stitch the names of women who have died in the war. She is going to collect all the stitched names and make a tote out of them. Each of the stitchers will then have the opportunity to carry the completed tote around with him or her for a week before passing it on to the next stitcher.

What struck me in Anne's interview was a point she writes about on her blog. Anne writes, "The Mother’s Day Project, in making the losses of war personal, changes forever the sense of disengagement that the Bush Administration wishes us to feel. Yeah, we can spend a couple of hours shopping at the mall as this administration wishes us to do, or, we can take an hour or two to forge a personal connection with someone who died in Iraq and, in doing so, never be able to look at those war statistics in the same detached way again."

To be honest, I've been one of those people in the mall. I didn't like this and I wanted to feel more of a connection so I submitted my name to Anne as someone who would be interested in participating.

This past Tuesday my husband brought in the mail and said jokingly that I had received a letter from Anne Landers. I thought it was more junk mail but when I saw my name was hand written on the envelope I wondered why the advice columnist was writing moi. No, just kidding, but I did not remember the name Anne Landre which is what was on the return address label. I opened the letter right away. In it I found this piece of muslin and then I remembered.

My initial reaction was she sounded young. Holly is a young name. I then put the muslin back in the envelope until this evening when I started my research to find out more about Holly.

I Googled Holly's name. What struck me first about her was her smile. It was beautiful. I also learned that Holly was a cheerleader and liked to help people. According to a Boston Globe article on Holly, she decided to join the Marines shortly after 9/11 . She obviously cared not only for her friends and family but for our country and she wanted to do her part to help. So honorable.

It is also written that "[s]he took long runs to harden her physique" prior to signing up for the Marines. I felt a connection with her in running.

In that same Boston Globe article I learned that when Holly was in Iraq, her job was to deliver mail to soldiers. Mail is important to soldiers and the impression I get from the articles I read is that it must have been even more exciting to receive the mail when it was delivered by her because she had a genuine joy from doing her job. She enjoyed delivering mail so much that she wanted to continue to deliver mail when she returned home from the war.

According to the Department of Defense, Holly was killed on June 23, 2005, when a suicide bomber drove his bomb-filled truck into hers. According to a MilitaryTimes article, Holly was the first female Marine killed in Iraq. She was 21. There is now a post office named after her.

Anne Landre woke me up. Because of this project, I now feel connected to Holly. I am sad about the loss her family has experienced.

Anne has asked me to return the stitched name to her within 2 weeks so I'd like to get it mailed out by the 26th.

Female casualties confirmed by the U.S. Department of Defense

Autumn Days

I LOVE autumn. Love -- Love -- Love it! We did the pumpkin patch at Alternberg's last weekend, a yearly tradition. Lydia is holding the perfect pumpkin she found for her cousin Laurel.

The pumpkin on the left was designed by Lydia. We baked the pumpkin seeds and Lydia thought they were nummy.

We also took some time to walk around in the woods last weekend at Standing Rocks Park. I love the smell of the damp leaves. We were scoping out the bike trails for when Ken and I get our new mountain bikes.

It was nice to get Scout and Zoe out for a walk too. Scout turned 12 on October 5! (Scout is the black/silver/white Siberian Husky and Zoe is a Samoyed.)

I stayed up til midnight last night working on my cards for the card swap this month. The theme was "masculine". They are due tomorrow and of course I didn't start them til last night. :-) I am really liking this card swap group I am doing. It gets my hands busy with my card supplies and the cool thing is I get 5 different cards back for inspiration. It never hurts to have extra cards on hand either.
I mentioned recently that I wanted to take a beginning quilting class. Well, I started this past Tuesday! In the class I will be learning how to make a quilted wallhanging. It is a sampler quilt, 40.5" x 40.5". We are using the book "Start Quilting with Alex Anderson". The class runs til the week before Christmas. This is what I came home with after the class...

The instructor told me to choose the border fabric first and then use that to pull out three shades of two colors from that piece, as well as four neutrals. I chose this fabric as my border...
I pulled out green from that and chose these three greens...
...and these three purples...
For my four neutrals, I pulled out the gold color...
In the first class I learned how to make a nine-patch block.
I also learned how to make a rail fence block and I made three of them.
Unfortunately(!!) after I was done with these four blocks, I learned they were not 6.5". I sewed my seams a hair to big so I need to rip apart all four blocks and sew them again! I also have to do five more nine-patch blocks and five more rail fence blocks before the next class on the 30th! I am looking forward to it all though. I used a Bernina 240 something or other in the class and sewing on it was like cutting butter. I am hoping to get back on the same machine this Saturday for a few hours to work on my homework.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Team TBD Won!

Here we are after finishing the marathon -- three life-long friends who will always remember this moment and what we accomplished together. Tara's husband Andy named us Team TBD (Tara, Becky, Dana a.k.a To Be Determined prior to the run) and coincidentally that is the order we finished in too. Tara finished in 5:19:13, Myself in 5:21:54, and Dana in 5:24:26. After the run, Tara and I compared the marathon to child birth and remain undecided as to which was more painful. Dana said it was the toughest physical challenge she has ever put herself through and that is saying a lot because she is a very athletic woman. Dana had a lot of pain because of her t-bands and had to walk the last 8 miles. Even with doing that, she came in only a couple minutes after us. We are 3 very determined ladies.

We wore our finisher shirts (below) afterward and had many people ask us if we won. Our response? Yes, we won! We finished and therefore consider ourselves winners!

Here we are on Thursday, picking up our race packets...

On Friday, Tara drove me up to Mount Hood...

Where I got to see a lot of snow...

We ate lunch at Timberline Lodge (where Tara tells me The Shining was filmed) on Mount Hood...

The next day, Tara took Dana and me to see the Pacific ocean (my first visit there). This was taken by Seaside...

The night before the race, Tara, Dana, and I joined other runners for a delicious pasta dinner in downtown Portland...

And then came race day...

It was a clear, cool morning, perfect for a run. I had butterflies in my stomach as we stretched with Tara's training team on top of the 24/7 Fitness Center. I retied my shoes at least 5 times, loosened, tightened, and shifted my water belt -- a bit of nervous energy prompting me to be sure I had everything just right before taking off. Deep down I knew I had done all that I could do to prepare for this day and I felt ready. There were more than 7700 runners and after the gun went off, it took us 10 minutes to get to the start line.

I felt great for the first 9 miles or so but as we reached the 9 mile point, my right calf started to cramp up. First signs of dehydration. Dana is telling me how to work it out...

By mile 18, I had horrible muscle cramps from my waist to my toes. Even my toes were curling up. I was drinking lots of fluids and energy drinks but it wasn't enough to get rid of the muscle cramping. What I learned after the race was that I needed to take in more salt.

When the following picture was taken I had less than a mile to go. My calves and gluts were still cramping badly and I was in a lot of pain.

But I made it to the finish line with tears of joy and a feeling of great accomplishment.

Tara's family supported us along the route. Her husband, Andy, rented a van so we could all ride together and he painted "Go Team TBD" on the windows. Tara's mom gave us each a gift the day before and had sunflowers for us when we had only a few blocks to go, sent by Tara and Dana's sister, Tama. All of the support really meant a lot of me. The cheering kept me going when I felt like I didn't have much left in me. Shortly before the end of the run, I saw a sign that I don't think I will ever forget. It said "The pain is only temporary but the marathon memories will last a lifetime". This is so very true.

Thank you to everybody who supported me by donating to the JDRF. I sincerely appreciate your support.